Bristol Hippodrome

Hairspray March 2016

A big night out


Hairspray is a black comedy in more ways the one as it confronts class, colour and creed.

In the genre of Jerry Springer The Musical there are parts of the dialogue which make you gulp including the use of the cringeworthy N-word.

When I first saw the film I just didn’t get it – was it a romance, pantomime or what?

Grease heart-throb John Travolta in drag didn’t exactly set the scene and I couldn’t make out whether it was a satire or vaudeville.

Set in the so-called swinging 1960s with hippy free-love and Carnaby Street this was also a time of segregation and prejudice based on racial identity.

In Bristol you had the bus boycott at the same time as Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island and radicals like Martin Luther King were being shot.

There were some big names on the stage at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday night with television soap stars Tony Maudsley, of Benidorm fame, and Claire Sweeney, from Brookside, leading the cast not forgetting Blue Peter’s Peter Duncan.

Sadly I noted it was playing to an all-white audience.

Although my husband Rob thought the show was one of the best he had ever seen he lamented how much weight some of the cast had put on and thought the aerosol cans contained deodorant!

That’s when I told him about fat suits and lacquer for hair!

It is good, the two grandchildren loved it and the cast were amazing.

Who would have thought while confronting stereotypical prejudices this musical makes you laugh and want to jump up and down.

The story which opens with the rousing Good Morning Baltimore is all about a deluded overweight school girl called Tracy Turnbald (Freya Sutton) with big dreams and her seemingly mismatched parents Edna and Wilbur (Tony and Peter).

Cue: Mr King: “I had a dream.”

After The Wire with its drugs exposure here is poor old Baltimore getting even more bad press with its racial divisions and dislike of left-wing pudgy people.

Then I wondered would the children relate to a script with references to the much-married Zsa Zsa Gabor, actress Gina Lollobrigida and African American civil rights activist Rosa Parks?

This energetic, psychedelic, musical showpiece got the biggest standing ovation I have seen for a first night at Bristol.

Tracy is a bouncy, bubbly, well-rounded teenager with piebald hair who loves to dance and watch the Corny Collins Show on TV with her dorky best friend Penny Pingleton (Monique Young).

But Tracy has a social conscience and kicks (metaphorically and actually) against rules that allow black people only one Negro Day dance.

Her actions downtown lead her to be imprisoned and there are some fun cameo roles by the prison officer ‘think of a mother who eats her young’and other parents including fabulous X Factor contestant Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle.

While Miss Sweeney is fantastic as tv producer and pushy mother Velma Von Tussle especially her drunken walk of shame along the aisle of the stalls it is the double act of Mr and Mrs Turnbald who steal the show.

In the end love conquers all and advertising sponsors Ultra Clutch re-brand to sell even more hair products.

The agoraphobia Mrs Turnbald ‘a simple housewife of undetermined girth’ launches a plus size clothing line.

And integration wins the day.

My best bits...the dancing, the singing, the black and white zebra prison uniforms, the joke about Jewish men and their lack of foresight (not sure if I heard that right) and the lingering long kiss between Tracy’s mum and dad.

Hairspray plays the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, March 12.

To read a review from Hairspray 2013 at Hippodrome and a Nailsea School production click HERE.

Carol Deacon






A new major tour of Hairspray hits the Bristol Hippodrome from Monday to Saturday, March 7-12, 2016.

Soap star Tony Maudsley takes the part of fat girl dancing Edna Turnblad with television and musical show performer  Claire Sweeney as Velma Von Tussle.

Peter Duncan is Wilbur and Brenda Edwards is motormouth Maybelle.

Hairspray is directed by Paul Kerryson, with choreography by Drew McOnie and musical direction by Ben Atkinson.

The show has music and lyrics by Academy Award, Tony and Emmy winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

It’s Baltimore 1962, where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV.

Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way.

Hairspray is a musical based on the 1988 film of the same name which starred Divine and Ricki Lake by cult filmmaker John Waters.

Tickets from £17.90 with concessions.

For further information click HERE.